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How to Use the Preset Brushes in Photoshop CS6

Photoshop CS6 has two brush panels, in a sense. In addition to the Brush panel, the Brush Preset picker on the Options bar appears when you click the down arrow next to the box displaying the active brush tip.

Photoshop has a large number of predesigned brush presets that you can use. The default set includes round, hard-edged brushes (which still have softer edges than the Pencil tool) and round soft-edged brushes. There are also airbrush, spatter, and natural media brush-tip presets, as well as a group of brush-tip shapes, such as stars, leaves, and other shapes. You also get a set of bristle tip brushes.

In CS6, you get two new brush tip shapes — an erodible tip and an airbrush tip. You can also download brushes galore from the web.

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A preset brush’s pixel diameters appear as text next to a thumbnail image of the brush shape when the panel’s display is in default mode.

To use one of these brushes, just click the Brush Preset picker arrow or thumbnail on the Options bar, or click the brush in the Brush Presets panel and then select the brush you want from the scrolling preset list. You can augment your choices with any of the following options:

  • Move the Size slider to change the diameter of the selected brush. This is a quick way of getting a slightly larger or smaller brush when none of the presets meets your needs exactly. For example, the hard-round brush preset is 13 pixels in diameter. You can click this brush tip and move the slider to the right to get a hard-edged brush in any size up to 5,000 pixels.

    To change the brush size by using the keyboard when a tool is active, press the ] key (the right bracket) to increase the size and the [ key (the left bracket) to decrease the size. The amount of change varies according to the initial size of the brush. To adjust the size more dramatically, continue to press the bracket key.

  • Select any of the libraries of additional brush-tip presets provided with Photoshop. Click the Brush Preset picker or the Brush Presets panel’s pop-up menu and select one of the brush libraries shown at the bottom. They have names like Special Effect Brushes and Faux Finish Brushes. Select whether to append the brushes to your current set or to replace the current set with the library you select from the dialog box that appears.

  • CS6 has provided a new set of preset brush tips —erodible and airbrush. These brushes create realistic brush stokes that appear to have been made using natural, not digital, media. The erodible tip enables you to draw more naturally, and the brush “erodes” like a pencil, piece of charcoal or worn down brush would erode as you use it.

    The new airbrush tips create a more natural airbrush effect, like you would get with an old analog airbrush. For the erodible tips you can specify options for the brush tips to change the size, tip shape, softness, and spacing. You can even click the Sharpen tip button to give your brush a crisper point. For airbrush tips you can specify the size, hardness, distortion, granularity, spatter size and amount and spacing.

    You can also manage brush-tip libraries by using the Preset Manager. Click the Preset Manager icon at the bottom of the Brush Presets panel to access it directly.

  • Select a custom library of brush tips that you’ve created. Click Load Brushes to append new brushes to your current collection or to replace them with the new library.

  • In the Brush Preset Picker, if the Hardness option is available, adjust the slider to make the brush more (higher) or less (lower) soft and fuzzy.

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